News that Michael Moore is in Bellaire doesn’t usually elicit a whole lot more attention from locals than the beer du jour at Short’s Brewing Co. on North Bridge Street (fyi: dark cherry porter last Saturday).
Folks who live in this storybook town (population around a thousand and please, pronounce it B’laire) nestled in Northern Michigan’s gemlike Chain of Lakes where Moore lives, have gotten used to spotting the controversial award-wining filmmaker in what has been his hometown since 2004.
Nevertheless, when Moore rolled into town Saturday for the Michigan premier of his new documentary, Capitalism: A Love Story
, fresh from film showings in Venice, Toronto, San Francisco, Pittsburgh and his personal appearance on Jay Leno (if you missed his a cappella performance of Dylan’s “The Times They Are A-Changin” find it on YouTube) the town kicked it up with a half-dozen or so orange cones in front of the Bellaire Theater, and a blue-uniformed policeman stationed down the block. The Antrim County Democrats, who sponsored the premier, spruced themselves up with ties sewn by some of the volunteers out of fabric printed with dollar bills in honor of the movie’s theme. Apparently a demonstrator even showed up in front of the theater—though it must have been after the special press showing at 10 a.m. because I never saw him.
Local Hoopla or not, the crowds did come, if quietly, from all over Northern Michigan and beyond to see the movie. By the end of two showings on Saturday, over 500 people had seen Capitalism
—Moore's statement on what he calls the "legalized greed" that capitalism in United States has become. At a casual press conference after the morning screening of the film Moore told reporters: “I’m not an economist but I do believe in democracy and I do believe that you and I don’t have a say in how this economy is run. And that is simply wrong in this democracy, so I want this economy run by our representatives with direct input from us. I want it to have a moral core. I want it to respond to the values that we say that we have as a Judeo-Christian country. And there’s no room for capitalism and those values because they are antithetical to each other. "
Moore went on to say that he was very proud of the film, highlighting footage of former President Franklin Roosevelt presenting his vision of a second bill of rights to the American people, that would have included guaranteed medical care, work and a place to live, that his archival team found although the Roosevelt Library and Roosevelt family didn’t know it existed. “I asked my archival team to do a search anyway, just keep looking. We don’t search things on Google, we actually do some shoe leather. They found it in a box in South Carolina unmarked, buried gone. Now, 65 years later, people have a chance to see it and I’m so happy about that."
The laid back, sun-dappled Intermediate River that flows through this town is a tidy metaphor for B’laire's attitude—the perfect medicine, it seems, for Moore’s frenetic life. Although Moore did the production work on Capitalism
in nearby Traverse City (moving the film crew of his Dog Eat Dog Films here for an entire year) the actual filming was a physically and emotionally exhausting schedule that spans stories of families evicted from their foreclosed homes in Illinois, Michigan, Florida and South Carolina, to footage of striking workers at the Republic Windows and Doors plant in Chicago.
When longtime Traverse City-based Associated Press reporter John Flesher (who Moore jokingly called the “Helen Thomas of the press corps here”) asked Moore how he would answer critics who accuse him of bashing the very system that made him a wealthy man, Moore responded by highlighting the way other successful people have sacrificed enjoying the good life to work for the common good—citing presidents Obama and Kennedy as examples. “If I step out of my body and look at myself the first thing I’d say is, ‘You’ve got another 60 or 70 pounds to lose,’” he said. “The other thing I’d say is, ‘Why the hell are you doin’ this man, you live on Torch Lake. Kickback dude, you made it.”
Capitalism: A Love Story
opens nationwide on October 2.
Moore at the Bellaire Theater Saturday for his film's opening:
Volunteers for the Antrim Dems in their spiffy ties: